An ever changing brick canvas is the hallmark of this famous railway arch that is now one of the top spots for street art and legal graffiti.

Based underneath Waterloo station, the arches were taken over by Banksy for his Cans Festival in 2008, then by seemingly everyone else afterwards, and somewhere deep under the intervening layers of spray can paint, his works still linger.

Some 300 metres of railway tunnel covered in street art, for anyone, no matter how gifted (or not) to have a try.

The dominant aroma of the old tunnels would have one been of petrol and piss, but today the cars and urinators are banned, and the tunnel fills with the sharp smell of spray cans as people add their own mark to the tunnels.

The works they add are both temporary, for they will soon be covered over, and permanent, for they will remain in situ, buried under the layers of paint added by each fresh arrival.

Last year, the arches gained professional lighting, and that has transformed the space into one of bright vibrant colours and at times an almost surreal experience.

It’s a tunnel with two original entrances, which retain their original industrial appeal, but as is often the case, money is moving in, and there’s now a sanitized “official” entrance to one side.

A row of cafes and shops in side-arches with achingly fashionable stone block walls and wooden seats lead to a cleaned up brick tunnel and a doorway into the colours beyond.

As much as the sanitized approach may offend some, it does create a much sharper contrast between the gentrified side and the rougher anarchistic lands beyond.

A portal into another world.

Nearest railway stations

  1. London Waterloo
  2. Lambeth North
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